According to Wikipedia, A ritual is “a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed in a sequestered place, and performed according to set sequence”.
Are you trying to sleep with too many thoughts in your head?
Do you already have an evening ritual that doesn’t seem to work?
You’ve tried meditating, a warm shower, soothing music, but it doesn’t seem to do the trick. As soon as you lie down in bed, your thoughts and your ongoing to-do list are rushing towards you.
If you can relate to this, read on!
In today’s blog post we will go though the step that many people overlook when they set up an evening ritual. A few methods to clear out any distractions on your mind, as a “pre-ritual” if you like.
After that we will look at a list of things you might want to include in your evening ritual once your mind is clear and still.
Do you include a mind clearing session in your evening ritual?
If you want a good nights rest, you need to clear out any distractions first. It’s not until after that you can set up an effective evening ritual that will work wonders for you.
If it’s on your mind, your mind isn’t clear.
– David Allen
The purpose of this evening ritual is to clear your mind to get you ready for a good nights sleep. Try out at least two of the three following methods before you go on to the steps that you might want to include in your evening ritual:
1. Keep a journal
Journaling is an amazing method to get your thoughts out of your head. It can be a good idea to sit down with a journal and just write whatever comes up in your mind. If you want you can try out Julia Camerons morning pages method. It works for evening journaling too!
See the journal as a trash bin where you can throw everything that occupies your mind. If you’re the artsy kind of person, maybe a few sketches will do the trick for you. Anything that can help you clear out the clutter that occupies your mind from getting your peace of mind.
2. Try the Brain Dump Meditation method
If you’re stressed out about work or something else that you can’t seem to get off your mind, this might help. I call it the Brain Dump Meditation method and you can read about it here.
The method is a great way to get everything you worry about down on paper, so at least you don’t have to worry about it right now before you go to sleep. Just sit down and let the thoughts come to you. Capture them on paper and say “thanks, got it” and then let it go for now. Say to yourself that you don’t have to deal with this until tomorrow.
Just write down everything, whether it is something you have to remember to do to the next day, worries about your kids, or if you’re mad at someone for some reason. Just jot it down so it doesn’t have to take up precious space in your brain.
3. Write down your tasks for tomorrow
If you’re having trouble with a neverending to-do list in your head, you can combine this method with the brain dump tip above. When you have your brain dump, try to see if anything is so urgent that you need to write it down as a task on next day’s to do list. If not, let it go.
But if you can identify some tasks or things you have to deal with the next day, jot it down in your calendar so you can let it go until tomorrow and focus on your sleep.
Now to the ritual!
It’s a good idea to have an evening ritual set up. If you repeat your ritual every night, you will program your brain to get in sleep mode as soon as you start your ritual. A little like Pavlov’s dogs 🙂
1. Cool your bedroom
Before you start your ritual, make sure that your bedroom is cool and oxygenated. Open a window half an hour before you go to bed to get a good air quality in your bedroom.
2. Light some scented candles
Aroma therapy can be a super effective part of your evening ritual. Scents are known to activate the memory, so if you keep using the same scent every evening, your brain will start to accociate the smell to bedtime. I use citrus scented candles which I love, but you can use any scent you like of course.
It is also super cozy to have lit candles when you read or take a bath.
3. Turn off technology
This should be a no brainer for most of us, and still we don’t live by this. No technology near your bed should be a rule if you have trouble falling asleep. I know this can be hard. I totally get it and don’t always follow my own rule here! Try to at least turn the notifications off so you don’t have to be disturbed during your reading session.
4. Read, read and then read some more
A while ago I was talking to a friend who is a woman on top of her career with a LOT of things on her mind. She puts in a good 60-80-hour work week every week minimum which I believe is way too much for any human being. (My advice to her would be to cut down on her working hours to a 40-hour workweek before doing anything else!)
Her tip is to read and read then read a bit more. For her, reading is the best way to forget about work and clear her mind by focusing on the fiction.
This can be a great way for you as well to let your mind relax a bit. Try out some good old fiction that allows you to escape into another world. Meet some new fictional friends and follow them on their adventures.
If you read you also relax your eyes and brain in a way that you don’t do if you stare on a screen. So pick out a real book; don’t read on a tablet or your phone (see tip 3).
5. Wear socks to bed
What? You just told us to cool the room? Now you want us to wear socks to bed?
Yes, if you have cold feet it can be a good idea to put on some socks before you tuck yourself in for the night. According to National Sleep Foundation, warming your feet before bedtime is a signal to your brain that it’s time to go to bed. It helps the blood circulation as well, which is beneficial for your entire body.
If you’re not the sock wearing type, you could consider a foot bath or a foot massage as a part of the ritual. This also helps to dilate the blood vessels in your feet, which sends signals to your brain that it’s night time.
(As for me, I have a little dog who loves to curl up against my feet every night. This might be the best tip I can give you, since it’s so darn cozy!)
6. Turn the lights out
When we start to get sleepy, our melatonine levels rise in our bodies. Melatonine is a smart little hormone helping us to fall asleep. But the thing is that it doesn’t start to hit off before it’s dark. Apparently it thinks that the sun is still up and if the sun is up, then… well, maybe you’re supposed to be too.
So make sure to have a dark surrounding when you go to sleep so your melatonine can work effectively.
7. Use the 4-7-8 method
This breathing technique is known to help people with anxiety, and it is also an effective sleep remedy as well. I have covered the 4-7-8 method in another blog post, you can read about it here. When you have your distractions out of the way, this method is the way to go. You can literally fall asleep in under a minute using the method.
Bonus tip: Start a new habit
Have you ever heard of Little Nemo in Slumberland? This cute little cartoon character always wakes up from his dream world realizing that the dream was caused by him eating too many cheese sanwiches before he got to bed.
It can be a good idea to look at what you eat or drink before you go to bed but also check out your overall eating and drinking habits. If you start a healthy eating and drinking habit it can help you improve your sleeping health as well. I advice you to make healthy eating into a habit and see if it improves your sleep. Try for at least a month, which is the time it takes to form a new habit.
If you are having trouble sleeping, look at your coffee intake during a day. I know, it’s a refreshing beverage, but is it worth not being able to sleep for? I’m actually in the middle of a “coffee detox” right now, and I am trying to cut off the coffee and replace it with rooibos tea. It’s hard, since coffee is a huge part of our culture (I live in Sweden which is among the top ten of coffee consuming countries in the world.)
Alcohol can also increase your sleeping problems. Many feel that they can sleep better if they consume alcohole. While alcohol can help you fall asleep, you get a poor quality of your sleep if you are under the influence of alcohol. So cutting down your alcohol intake can work miracles for you.
So what is the one thing you’re missing in your evening ritual?
If you’ve missed it, it’s all right above in this article 🙂
The most important thing you could do for yourself in order to get better sleeping patterns is definitely to start clearing your mind from clutter that you’ve accumulated during the day. If you start an evening ritual, be sure to have a good “zen strategy” ready. This will work miracles for you, I promise.